We are proud to announce that a large expansion of the Leo Charles Peters Papers (RS 11/10/51) is now available for research. Dr. Peters was a staple of the Iowa State University (ISU) Department of Mechanical Engineering from 1961 until his retirement in 1996.
Born in Kansas, he got his start in engineering at Kansas State University with a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering (1953). Peters worked as an engineer for much of the 1950s at the John Deere Tractorworks in Waterloo, Iowa with the exception of the two years he spent in the 839th engineering battalion of the Special Category Army with Air Force during the Korean War. Peters left John Deere to take up a position as Instructor with the Department of Mechanical Engineering and complete his graduate education, earning both his M.S. (1963) and his Ph.D. (1967) in mechanical engineering and engineering mechanics from ISU. Peters was quickly promoted to Associate Professor, earning full Professor in 1978. He remained with the University until his retirement in 1996. Materials in the collection document Peters’ transition from student to professional to faculty member and provide insight into engineering curriculum development and university-industry partnerships. A significant portion of this collection concerns teaching activities and curriculum for engineering courses.
Part of Peters’ lasting contribution to ISU was his initiation of an ISU student branch of the Society of Automotive Engineers (ISU SAE) in 1968. The branch’s first year was very successful – earning a personal visit from F. B. Esty, the National President of SAE and culminating in the presentation of a branch charter for formal induction into SAE. Other notable guests of ISU SAE were Phil Myers (former president of the Society of Automotive Engineers), Andy Granatelli (Chief Executive Officer of STP), and Jacques Passino (Director of Ford Motor Company’s Special Products Division). Peters’ love of advising and working with students was recognized multiple times via awards for outstanding teaching and advising.
Drawing on both his formal education and experience as an engineer, Peters was an expert in product safety and product liability issues. He published in these areas and taught “moot court” workshops at engineering conferences where participants explored product liability and the law. He also worked as an independent consultant and expert witness specializing in patent infringement, products liability, and failure analysis.
One of the special features of this collection is the series of diaries that Peters kept from 1959 to 1969. Scattered throughout notes on classes, tough mechanic jobs at John Deere, thesis due dates, and class exams are hints of his rich family life – “Mark’s First Communion (May 8, 1966)” and “Sue’s 7th and 8th graders bought and gave her a bassinett for a going away gift (January 17, 1958).” Peters was devoted to his family and, along with wife (and ISU alumna) Suzanne Gordon Peters, raised nine children. This collection gives us a glimpse into the many facets of a scholar’s life.
This collection adds to our steadily growing body of materials on ISU engineering faculty (see Henry M. Black and Anson Marston). Our other engineering collections include: Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), the records of the College of Engineering, and our materials on agricultural engineering and technology.
The Leo Charles Peters papers are now available for research (RS 11/10/51) at our reading room on the fourth floor of the Parks Library. Please come by and take a look – there’s a lot more than we can include in a single blog post!